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K-State Today

October 5, 2022

Rethinking the Record of Geoffrey Chaucer on Oct. 11

Submitted by Karin Westman

Geoffrey Chaucer

What exactly happened between May and July 1380 when the famous poet Geoffrey Chaucer met with Cecily Chaumpaigne, the daughter of a London baker?

New evidence has come to light and, on Tuesday Oct. 11, from 10 a.m. to noon in 134 Hale Library, members of the K-State community are invited to join faculty and students in English to watch a livestream from the National Archives in the U.K.

In 1380, Cecily Chaumpaigne, daughter of a London baker, released poet Geoffrey Chaucer from the legal consequences of her rape. The #MeToo movement brought new attention to this case. During the livestream on Oct. 11, historians, archivists and literary scholars will reveal new documents relating to the original accusation and discuss their meaning and significance.

Wendy Matlock, professor of English, has organized the viewing for students enrolled in her courses this fall, ENGL 310: Introduction to Literary Studies and ENGL 730: Literature of the Global Middle Ages.

"In 1873 Frederick James Furnivall discovered Cecily Chaumpaigne's document, releasing Geoffrey Chaucer from all legal consequences related to 'de men raptu,'" Matlock said. "Ever since, literary scholars have sought to reconcile a poet known for creating complex female characters with this heinous charge. The two newly discovered documents that will be revealed at this livestreamed event promise to clarify the nature of those charges, and the diverse experts on the panel are sure to be both thoughtful and provocative. I am excited that technology allows members of the K-State community to be present at this event, which will rewrite literary history."

The National Archives has issued a content warning for the livestream: The scholars will discuss sensitive and potentially triggering topics including sexual assault.

The livestream viewing is sponsored by the English department in the College of Arts and Sciences and its graduate track in literature, with assistance from K-State Libraries.